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Jones held woman hostage in apartment where Duve later killed

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of November 27, 2014)

In following the trail of accused killer Michael Jones, Vero Beach Police detectives interviewed a young woman who moved with Jones to Vero – and was held hostage by him less than a year ago in the very apartment where police say Jones later killed a subsequent live-in girlfriend, nurse Diana Duve.

After moving out and living in her car in a campsite and behind some taverns for a while, Kimberly (last name withheld) returned to Jones’ apartment and was held captive for more than two days before she finally escaped last December on New Year’s Eve.

If she had not escaped, Kimberly told police, “I would have been dead. I know I would have been dead.  I hundred percent think so.”

The harrowing story of then-30-year-old Kimberly lies 1,400 pages into the growing body of evidence against Jones. Kimberly, who was interviewed by Det. Brad Kmetz, met Jones in April 2013 at a party in Fort Lauderdale through mutual friends.

In the spring of 2013, Jones was between jobs – his job with Wells Fargo Private Bank had been allegedly “eliminated” after his then co-worker and girlfriend told police Jones threatened to kill her the night before her birthday because she intended to celebrate with friends.

Jones had not yet cut a plea deal to be sentenced to five years’ probation on that 2012 charge of aggravated stalking when he met Kimberly.

As she describes it, they “hung out” a couple more times after the party and exchanged phone numbers. Then after their first overnight visit, things began to move really fast – a recurring theme in Jones’ life as uncovered by investigators.

“He really wanted me to move up there immediately and very quickly,” Kimberly told Kmetz. She explained that she had just gotten out of a relationship and wanted to take things slowly, but Jones pressured her, talking about their future together.

Kimberly had a job at a biomedical company in Boca Raton, but she said Jones urged her to cut ties with her friends and spend weekends with him in Vero. “If I’m not gonna see my friends very often, I would love to be able to hang out with my friends and see certain people,” Kimberly said.

“It just would always escalate. You know, I always just felt like I was walking on eggshells, so I would just make it easier on my life and come up here every weekend,” she said.

She moved some of her personal items up every time she made the trip to Vero that summer. Eventually, Kimberly cut her hours to half time, commuted four hours a day round-trip to Boca and in the fall of 2013 relocated to live with Jones in the Carolina Trace apartment that became a crime scene this June after Duve’s disappearance.

When they went out socially in Vero, Kimberly said Jones demanded she be deceptive, or at least vague, about the details of their relationship. “He would prep me,” she said, “Don’t tell people how long we’ve known each other.”  She said she didn’t understand the need for the obfuscation.

“He’s like, ‘be as vague as possible. If people ask you dates or something, just be vague’,” Kimberly said, adding that Jones told her: “Make sure you talk about the fact that we have just known each other for a while.”

“We would get into a lot of fights about me quitting my job. And I knew in the back of my mind I can’t be financially dependent on him. I need to have my own money,” Kimberly said.

She said she felt that any other boyfriend would understand that leaving her job and friends in South Florida and moving to Vero was a big step, but Jones had no such understanding. “When he had moved in, he had already put me on the lease,” she said.

“It was just always a fight. It was either all or nothing,” she said. “And he would threaten to leave all the time. Or like do just really weird stuff.”

By weird, Kimberly meant that Jones would tell her that he put himself in a situation where he had the opportunity to cheat on her “and then make me idolize the fact that he didn’t,” she said. “He was just very manipulative and constantly accused me of sleeping around, or talking to people, or doing things that ... just weren’t normal. I knew he had a jealousy problem from the get-go.”

Kmetz asked Kimberly what Jones would do when he was jealous.

“He would just fly off the handle. It was always ultimatums,” she said. “He would make weird threats.”

Kimberly said Jones threatened he would see would never be served in a favorite bar again – something that Duve’s friends testify he also told the 26-year-old Sebastian nurse as their tumultuous relationship turned rockier.

Kimberly also said Jones would call her when she was out on a morning run, and demand she return home within minutes or he would leave and never speak to her again.

“I don’t know why I would appease to that. I don’t know,” she said. “I ran home, and had to beg for forgiveness, or beg for him to stay,” she said.

Kimberly said she would become frustrated, exhausted with Jones’ antics. She would give up and give in and things would temporarily return to normal. “All of a sudden things would be fine, like go out to dinner, go to a movie,” she said.

But things would ultimately sour again.  After a romantic dinner at home and a few glasses of wine, she said, relating one incident, “I fell asleep. I woke up to him shaking me and screaming at me, ‘What did you do? I’m never gonna forgive you. Get out of my house’.”

Kimberly said she was “a little tipsy” but wondered what she had done while Jones screamed at her. When she asked him what she had done, he replied, “It doesn’t matter now. I’m never – I’m never gonna forgive you ever. So you just need to leave.”

Crying, she told Jones that she was too drunk to drive and he let her sleep on the porch. He came out saying he’d called an ex-girlfriend and that the ex-girlfriend told him to offer her another chance. Jones gave her a hug and said that was her “chance to apologize” and told her to leave in the morning.

“I was like – clearly I’m insane and I don’t know what’s going on, so I will leave in the morning,” she told Jones.  He then let her sleep in the bed for the rest of the night. In the morning, Jones told her he was “ready to work through it.”

Kimberly said Jones pressured her to accompany him to work-related gatherings. “Sometimes I just felt like he just wanted to show me around like a pony,” she said.  She said Jones would make her cry on these occasions, then criticize her appearance because she looked like she’d been crying.

As she described this recurring erratic behavior, Kmetz asked Kimberly if Jones had ever gotten physically violent with her.

“No. Usually he would just ball up – he would get so angry and upset that he would either just be completely motionless and like, cold and distant. Or he would ball up his fists and, I could see him, his body would shake,” she said. “Like he would physically get shaken.”

When things would get bad, Kimberly said she would sleep on the couch as a “time out.” But if she tried to leave, she said Jones would threaten to harm her if she stepped out the door.

One time Kimberly tried to leave after a heated argument, but she said she didn’t want to leave the house a mess. “I hated the idea of leaving the kitchen a mess. He does have a lot of back pain,” she said. “I did all the laundry, I cleaned the kitchen and I was going to leave. As she was finishing the dishes, Jones came downstairs and he had calmed down.

After several months of yelling, threats and being told what to say and who she was allowed to talk to, Kimberly finally left Jones.

“When I left for good we had a huge blowout. I mean it was such a blur. I got a moving van, loaded up the truck and I left,” she said. “And I had been like, living whatever, camping, living in my car.

“I didn’t know what my plan was. I wasn’t sure if my work was gonna take me back full time. I had racked up so much credit card debt from living up there because I paid for everything. He kept on saying that he was going to take care of me but I paid for everything,” she said. “I paid for all of his new clothes. I paid for everything in that house ... so I was financially really scared also to leave him.”

During the week, she parked at a campsite, but the campground would get booked up over the weekend so she would go to the beach and park where she could use a bathroom. “I’d been sleeping in my car in a parking lot behind, like, Fort Lauderdale where the bars are.”

She said Jones came to Fort Lauderdale and she bumped into him at a bar. He wanted her to come back to Vero where she would be safe. She said she needed a shower, so she drove back to Vero ahead of Jones and waited inside the apartment for him as she still had the key.

Jones didn’t come back, but he began sending her threatening text messages. Kimberly said to herself, “I can walk away from this with a clear conscience that I tried,” and she left. She headed south on the interstate and passed Jones traveling north. He called her screaming and threatened to hurt himself if she didn’t come back.

She went back to the apartment, only to face more verbal and psychological abuse. He threatened to kill himself while she watched and, according to Kimberly, said, “You are never leaving this house, ever, until you prove to me that you’re never leaving again.”

When Kmetz asked Kimberly if she felt that she was free to leave, she said, “I didn’t know if he had a weapon. I didn’t know – I was petrified.”

Kimberly had met another young woman and agreed to become roommates, but Jones forced her, by using threats of violence, to call the girl and cancel the arrangement.

“He would go through, like, episodes where he would just start punching the pillows,” she said, adding that he would pace around and that she was unsure of what he would do next.

As the new year approached, a deadline was looming for Kimberly. She was set to move into a new apartment with a roommate on Dec. 30. Kimberly said Jones held her hostage that weekend, that she was frightened he would hurt her if she left, and that she even took a full inventory of the kitchen knives in the apartment to make sure he didn’t have one.

“I thought he was going to kill me,” she told Kmetz. “I had already sat there and in my own mind I had already said goodbye to my family. Like, I was just kind-of waiting.”

Kmetz asked again if Jones had ever been physically violent with Kimberly and she said no, but she explained why she was so scared. “The look in his eyes sometimes when he would get mad, it wasn’t – it wasn’t just someone with, like, a bad temper. It was one of those things where there’s something else.  When he would get mad at me it was terrifying.”

Kimbery said Jones never cried, but that “he was just purely infuriated. And he would stand up and just scream at me.”

Kimberly missed work on Monday, held captive by Jones, but she made a plan to escape on Tuesday morning, saying that she had to go to work.

“I made sure that I didn’t take anything that would be suspicious ... The only thing that I grabbed was my regular stuff that I would grab for work,” she said, noting that she left Christmas presents that her father had sent her. Most of her belongings were in storage at that point. Jones made her promise to return, as they had plans for New Year’s Eve, and also made her promise not to tell anyone what had transpired.

“Why didn’t you call us about any of this?” Kmetz asked Kimberly.

“I didn’t want him to get in trouble. And I didn’t want him to get fired,” she said, noting that she didn’t know about Jones’ aggravated stalking charge from Broward County.

“I have no idea why I was there. I have no idea why I didn’t leave so many other times. I have no idea why I was with him. It was completely like a – he was like a drug. Everything that made sense in the rational world, when I say them out loud, I get it. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Kimberly described Jones a charismatic and funny and “genuine in so many different ways.” But his dark side outweighed those good qualities and she did leave on New Year’s Eve 2013. She said Jones kept contacting her by phone and text message until early February, when he apparently found a new love interest and moved on.

Kimberly also moved on with her life, until late June when she was jolted by a chilling news report. Duve had been found dead in the trunk of her own car. Jones had been hauled out of a hotel room by police and thrown in jail, charged with Duve’s murder.

“What made you decide to call us and tell us your story?” Kmetz asked Kimberly.

“Seeing the news – I mean, seeing what happened, you know, I know that if maybe if I had pressed charges during those two days maybe something would be different. I didn’t know he was on parole (probation), but obviously something else might have been done if I had stayed.”